Mitchler: A strong voice who spoke for many
By Denise Crosby firstname.lastname@example.org April 20, 2012 1:44PM
April 22, 1998 • Robert Mitchler poses for Beacon-News story regarding medical benefits to veterans. | Beacon-News file photo
Updated: May 23, 2012 8:05AM
One of the many perks of this profession is getting to meet ordinary people who do the extraordinary.
And perhaps among the highest on that list are the veterans of World War II, a group of young innocents plucked from the cornfields and street corners of our nation more than six decades ago to fight a world war — and who have ultimately become our most endangered species as they continue to die in record numbers.
We certainly lost a precious resource on Thursday with the death of Robert Mitchler, a Navy veteran of World War II who went on to become a state senator — and perhaps most importantly, a fierce cheerleader for all veterans in our communities.
According to Mitchler’s bio with the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum website, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in November 1941. In 1944, he asked for combat duty and was assigned to the USS Oxford, which supported missions in the Philippines and at Okinawa. In 1945, Mitchler was reassigned to the USS Scoter. In 1950, when the Korean War started, he was recalled to active duty and served for a time as a chief petty officer for Adm. Allen Smith before being assigned as a stenographer at the Panmunjom armistice talks.
Mitchler went on to serve as state senator from 1964 to 1981. But what he became most known for was his role as veterans liaison for three governors; and — for many of us — the voice of soldiers, Marines and sailors in the Fox Valley with his Veteran’s Corner column that ran in The Beacon-News for many years.
He was elected national director of the Navy League in 1982, and 11 years later became its national director emeritus. He also was responsible for establishing the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at his alma mater, East Aurora High School.
For Mitchler, the community could always do more to honor those who served this country. After this newspaper ran a daily brief entitled “This Day in World War II” for five years during the war’s 50th anniversary back in the early ’90s, he argued we should continue with this series, even after the memorials and celebrations were over.
He was also disappointed with us a couple years ago when, because of space constraints, we had to limit his columns to micro-local issues. Like all good soldiers (and sailors), Mitchler believed to the core in his mission. He was the consummate advocate for our troops — past and present — and it’s no wonder veterans in our communities respected and appreciated him.
Mitchler was passionate. He was opinionated. He was tireless — or so it seemed, especially when, at age 91, he participated in the Mid-American Canoe and Kayak Race on the Fox Valley last June. But, as he reminded so many of us over the years, the time is coming when the voices of old vets will be silent.
Bob Mitchler, too, is now gone. But thanks to all he did and all he stood for, we will not forget.
COMING MONDAY: After waiting over 30 years, it’s going to take more than personal tragedies and critical health issues to keep Cheryl Lynn Hall’s family out of the courtroom when the trial of the man accused of the 1981 murder of the Aurora woman finally begins.